Marble Cone Fire

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Marble-Cone Fire
Location Big Sur, California
Statistics
Date(s) August, 1977 (PDT)
Burned area ~178,000 acres
Land use Wildlands
Fatalities 0

The Marble-Cone Fire was a wildland fire which burned for three weeks in August, 1977 in the Santa Lucia Mountains high country, at the Big Sur area of Monterey County, California.

By the time it was extinguished, it had burned about 178,000 acres (720 km2)[1] in the Santa Lucia Mountains, known as the Ventana Wilderness, making it the largest wildfire in recorded California history at that time. The fire burned 90% of the vegetation cover in the upper Big Sur River watershed. This posed the threat of serious flooding in the Big Sur River Valley, where a much smaller August 1972 fire had led to disastrous flooding later that year. Fortunately, moderate rains resulted in no major flooding problems.[2]

Elite Fire crew Tahoe One headed by foreman Tom Hatcher and lead Pulaski Leonard Andrenacci was the point fire crew in the last defensive stand to save the Ventana Wilderness. No mechanized equipment was allowed into the wilderness and the firefight was all done by hand line. The result was that the Ventana Wilderness was lost. Opening the debate whether mechanized equipment should be used in virgin forest during a wild land fire. Backfire techniques by the USFS have long been debated—every kind of backfire technique was used on the Marble Cone Fire: fuses, drip torches, berry pistols, flame throwers and, at one point, Tahoe One was even deployed with napalm grenades. None of these backfire attempts were successful. Winds on the Marble Cone Fire exceeded one hundred miles per hour. Many remark that it was a true fire storm.

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